Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Best line in today's NYT op-ed about the value of college.

The op-ed is here.  And my favorite bit?
That brought [Professor] Hall to her own answer about college’s mission: “It is for developing the muscle of thoughtfulness, the use of which will be the greatest pleasure in life and will also show what it means to be fully human.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

R.I.P, Marvin Chirelstein.

Just heard the sad news.  Marvin Chirelstein made Federal Income Tax comprehensible for me when I was a lost law student, trying to figure out how "philosophy of tax" (interesting, and the bulk of the course that I took) meshed with "actual Federal Income Tax" (which is what I knew would be on the exam).  I read his Federal Income Tax paperback (now in its 12th edition) and made a vow to myself that if I made it through the course with a decent grade, I'd name a child after him. (That little factoid probably explains part of the reason that Jeff and I don't have kids:  Marvin Rapoport Van Niel?  Chirelstein Rapoport Van Niel?  See--that's quite a burden to put on a little tyke.)  Lighthearted remembrance aside, I just wanted to go on record to say that Professor Chirelstein was one of the greats, and I know he'll be missed.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

More Enron-ization of rankings.

As TaxProf Blog reports (here), UMKC has had an outside audit (here) to uncover rankings shenanigans.  What should we learn from examples like this one?  The same thing we should've learned decades ago: people respond to incentives.  For the best examples of perverse incentives, see this Freakonomics post.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why I switched from Fitbit to Vivofit--a customer service story (UPDATED YET AGAIN)

I like fitness trackers.  I like measuring things, and I don't expect the trackers to have pinpoint accuracy.  They exist as motivational devices and to show trends, and--generally speaking--they're good at those two things.

I said "generally speaking" because the Fitbit Charge did not serve those purposes well.  The first Charge I had lost battery life at an alarming rate.  After extensive back-and-forths with Fitbit, I finally got a replacement.  The charge worked well, but the sleep portion had two modes (normal and sensitive), neither of which captured my sleep accurately.  I know that my average sleep isn't 8+ hours (unfortunately), and I know that it's not 4 hours (thank goodness).  So, after a spate during which Fitbit wouldn't even sync my (over- or under-estimated) sleep, I gave up, ordered a Vivofit from Garmin, and asked for a refund.*

The refund process has been awful.  Obviously, each "team" (person?) at Fitbit doesn't keep a running customer log.  I got steadfast refusals to refund, one "yes, we'll refund, and here's where you send the old one" email," several "oops--we didn't mean to send it" emails, another "we acknowledge that we've sent you a refund authorization" email, and finally a "we don't care that we sent you a refund authorization--we're still not going to refund you the price, but, hey, thanks for returning it" one.  So Fitbit has my old tracker, and I'm out the money for the Fitbit.

I told Fitbit that my response to this frustration would be to blog about my experience, to tweet about it, and to post reviews, and that's what I intend to do.

Lesson to anyone dealing with the public, part 1:  keep a customer's file in one place, so that you don't whipsaw the customer with contradictory emails.

Lesson to anyone dealing with the public, part 2:  the Internet has a broad reach, and anyone with a keyboard can weigh in (for better or worse) on the company's service.

Fitbit?  Given your decision not to play fair, I'm going to spend some time this morning before work making sure I circulate this blog post as widely as possible. 

UPDATE:  my Amazon review of Fitbit went live this afternoon.

Just as a contrast, one of my Amazon packages was late in getting to me, and Amazon not only credited my account to make up for the late shipping, it also extended my Amazon Prime membership for a month--all because of a one-day-late shipment.  In case you're keeping score, that'd be:

Amazon Customer Service--an infinite number to indicate its truly superior customer service.
Fitbit Customer Service--an infinite negative number to indicate just how bad its customer service actually is.

UPDATE on 1/31/15:  I've been informed that Fitbit has mailed my refund check, but that's after--I kid you not--no fewer than 10 emails from Customer Service refusing to do so, then saying that the refund was coming, then saying it wasn't, etc., etc.  It's a bit like that scene from Noises Off:
Lloyd: [Barging in from the house] What the *...* is going on?
Belinda: Lloyd!
Frederick: Holy cow!
Poppy: I didn't know you were here.
Lloyd: I'm not. I'm in New York. But I can't sit out there and listen to two minutes, three minutes, one minute, two minutes!
Belinda: Lloyd! We're having big dramas back here!
Lloyd: We're having big dramas out *there!* This is a matinee, Love! There are senior citizens out there! "The curtain will rise in three minutes," we all start for the gents! "The curtain will rise in one minute," we all start running out again! We don't know which way we're going!
Fitbit emailed me to let me know that it was my fault for the miscommunication:  I had had the temerity to email Fitbit from two different email addresses, and Fitbit was incapable of realizing that one customer could have two addresses.  Res ipsa.
* I even actually revoked my acceptance, but Fitbit didn't want to bounce THAT sentence to its lawyers.